Clark’s Road Trip Hack: Renting a Car vs. Driving Your Own


One of the enduring challenges of travel is trying to save money while still having a great time. Perhaps you’ve cut your trip a day or two short for money reasons. You may have even skipped buying plane tickets and opted to drive to your destination to cut costs.

One thing to keep in mind is that if you do choose to drive rather than fly, you will typically add a day or two to your trip for road travel. You might also be thinking about driving your own vehicle to keep expenses low — but hold it right there!

Money expert Clark Howard says that you could save money in the long run if you rent a car for travel rather than driving your own.

Renting a Car vs. Driving Your Own for Vacation

“Instead of driving your own vehicle on your vacation, rent one,” Clark says. “Particularly if you’re going in a seven-day block, renting a vehicle could be a lot cheaper than effectively putting all those additional miles on your own vehicle.”

Clark says gas prices continue to be relatively low right now, making a road trip a more attractive mode of travel. Another advantage is that you can rent vehicles with added amenities or larger space for long trips, Clark says.

“Let’s say you need a larger or smaller vehicle or a different kind for your trip than what you own. Renting one can just work out so, so well,” he says.

Why It’s Sometimes Cheaper to Rent a Car Rather Than Drive Yours

Here are three reasons why it may be best to rent a car:

1. More Miles Can Hurt Your Resale Value

If you drive your own car the additional miles you put on it will literally be driving down the resale value of your vehicle.

If you shop and find a good deal on a rental car, you put those trip miles and the depreciation that goes with it on that rental car instead of your own,” Clark says.

2. More Trips Mean More Maintenance and Repairs

Those highway miles may also end up costing you more money than renting. Soon, you may have to put your car in the shop.

“Figure putting miles on your vehicle — at a minimum — at 50 cents a mile,” he says.


3. A Rental May Have Better Gas Mileage

Additionally, a rental car may get you better gas mileage, which translates to lower fuel costs for your trip.

Of course, it depends on which make and model you choose, but the market for car rentals favors consumers right now, Clark says.

“Car rental companies are feeling pressure from people not renting cars like they used to. They’re using Uber or Lyft instead of renting a car. That has softened up demand for the car rental industry. It has made the deals the best they’ve been in a long while on car rentals,” he says.


Of course, Clark’s take that it’s sometimes cheaper to rent a car than to drive your own is not a one-size-fits-all solution to your travel plans.

You still need to shop around and see if renting makes financial sense based on how far you’ll drive and how many days you’ll be away.

“Not every time, every date, every situation will you find a car rental to be cheaper, but usually you will, compared to the effective cost of putting those miles on your own vehicle,” Clark says.

Want to learn more about how to save when you travel? Here’s how to plan a trip.

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